How to get started

Discussion in 'Mapping Questions & Discussion' started by iCreate, Feb 16, 2012.

  1. iCreate

    iCreate L1: Registered

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    Hello all! I'm new around here and new to mapping and level design as a whole.

    I've been reading all the tutorials as well as watching lots of videos on how to use Hammer, but one thing that seems to evade me or just isn't talked about is the process of how one goes from a simple idea to finally getting started on making the level.

    I have an idea for a map, but can't for the life of me figure out where to begin. I feel like I should plan something but that seems to evade me as well.

    Any tips on the subject or even guides/guidance would be appreciated.

    Thanks!
     
  2. The Asylum

    aa The Asylum

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    The first thing you have to do- and I mean the absolute very FIRST thing you have to do, is get as far away from the computer as possible, and pick up a pencil and a sketchbook.

    If you ever wanted to know where all my idiotic inspiration comes from, basically all I do is think to myself, "Hey, what would look really really cool?" Usually I draw a CP, or the Intel, or whatever.Or just scenery: a prop, a hidden spytech base, wondering what I can do to cram an objective into somthing.

    Taking a common object and asking myself "How can I fuck with this thing six ways to Sunday?" helps too. Not that I'm shamelessly plugging my own work but take a look at this. Breaking a complex object into it's core pieces and replacing said pieces with other stuff is a great way to alter your thought processes about the way you see and think about things.
     
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  3. bob+M|M+

    bob+M|M+ L6: Sharp Member

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    I find it helps to start by placing some key elements in your scene. firstly a flat ground, an info_player_teamspawn, a CP/payload/piece of track, and a couple of varying shaped brushes. From there you can add some key props that you might use repeatedly in your theme by browsing some models, for example walkway props such as doorframes, animated doors, wooden truss, a set of stairs, etc, and browse the model folder for some aesthetic props that could enhance your theme, such as rocks, a tree, etc... then save it as a template, and now you have a little playground to mess around with!

    this is a really good download as well:
    A Boojum Snark's Ultimate Resource Pack
    http://forums.tf2maps.net/showthread.php?t=4674

    it has a ton of useful stuff, but most importantly it changes your gordon freeman info_player_teamspawns into engineers, so you will have the proper sense of scaling
     
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  4. Tom Hoen

    Tom Hoen L6: Sharp Member

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    First you should as The Asylum said get off computer and pick up pencil and paper. I'm going to write here what I have done previously and how I have designed couple of my maps. I'll also reference ‘level design for games: creating compelling game experiences' book.

    So lets begin with the first thing:

    1. Brainstorming Your Level Ideas:
    a) Which game mode and why?
    -You should consider which game mode is suitable for you. Are you a beginner or expert with the game mechanics? Do you know how the flow should be designed in your map? Should you start with easier game mode first like koth? Valve developer community has some good reasoning which game mode should be easier that other one.

    b) Creating a level narrative.
    -Now you should think what the background story of your map is. For example goldrush has great story which flows through the map as players’ progress.
    -What is the location’s functional purpose? For example, is it a mine tunnel system? Is it a training base for RED?
    -Does the level have interior or exterior spaces? Do they flow into each other?
    -And of course the size. How big are specific areas? How much time does the player spend in the level?
    -Location, Setting, Purpose of the location, Architecture and indoors & outdoors.


    c) Gathering concepts and reference images
    -Deciding the general look and feel
    - Choosing landmarks
    -Landmarks make the map memorable and help the players to inform where they need help. “I need sentry near satellite dish”.

    2. Designing With a Diagram
    a) Now start drawing the crazy ideas
    - Try to follow you level narrative. If it’s supposed to be in mineshaft make it feel like it
    - Remember the game play flow
    -I usually draw layouts mixed with exterior face
    b) Make the player remember the landmarks
    - Make them important and make the players to notice them
    - Hide them into game flow. Maybe the player has to go round it or hide behind it. For example ctf_turbine middle turbines.

    3. Hammer It!
    -Get back to computer and hammer it!

    This was written in a hurry and some points can be hard to understand.
     
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  5. Sergis

    aa Sergis L666: ])oo]v[

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    first, you must be polite, professional, and have a plan. you can plan on paper, you can plan in hammer, you can also just map as you go though that probably isnt the best way for a beginner.

    second, you must be ready for the fact that your first map will suck. most of them do. take it as a learning experience.

    now, having a plan and realistic expectations, you should install and configure sdk and launch hammer.

    4. block out a basic layout. you can start with blocking out little by little, i usually make a huge hollow skybox and work inside that as it lets me compile at any moment i please. as long as i fill the unneeded space afterwards, it works just fine.
    make just bare walls, ceilings, stairs. if you feel like detailing tho, go for it. detailed areas will be harder to change later, but since this is a first map and you're not at work here, have fun.

    5. make sure you have the gametype entities - cps/payload/whatever, spawnpoints, respawnrooms, respawnroom visualizers, proper spawndoors, health and ammo, resupply lockers, clipped out of bounds areas, lighting.

    6. run through your map yourself. check if every spawndoor works, every resupply locker, every forwardspawn if you have those, every respawn visualizer etc.

    7.i guess here is the point where youre ready for a playtest.
     
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  6. xzzy

    aa xzzy

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    Playtest is probably the single most important thing. And a critical eye, don't be so proud of anything you make that you won't admit it's a failure (failure is healthy anyways, it's a valuable learning tool).

    It's okay to try out dumb or silly ideas, but you need to playtest it to find out if it works or where the problems are. This is where buddying up with a server owner helps, if you can't get the map on a server your opportunities for playtesting will be extremely limited.

    Buying your own server is certainly an option too, but then you need to build up a network of friends you can spam with invites to come test your latest build.
     
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  7. iCreate

    iCreate L1: Registered

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    Hmm seems like I'll have to go through planning then. Thanks for all the tips, and by all means keep them coming! I'm sure there are other users stuck like me but are just afraid to ask, so you're not just helping me.

    Also if anyone has any sketches/layouts they wouldn't mind sharing, this would help immensely with getting a feel for these things. It doesn't have to be great, and I don't want to force anyone to give up plans to a map they're currently making; but if you have some past layouts/designs I'd love to take a look.

    Again, thanks!
     
  8. oolibokee

    oolibokee L1: Registered

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    Take this for what it is worth--I am very new at this as well. But I suggest starting with some feature that you think would be fun. It can be a cart mechanic, an idea for a middle cap point, a spire, or whatever it may be. And start from there. Then see if you can fit it within a style theme, like alpine, mining, spytech, or whatever.
     
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  9. Tom Hoen

    Tom Hoen L6: Sharp Member

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    I'm going to share couple of my sketches which I have shared in other threads. These are mostly buildings. I tried to get the general look and feel when I drew these.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  10. iCreate

    iCreate L1: Registered

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    Those are some great sketches Tom! Honestly it truly helps to be able to see someone else's planning to get a good feel for these things.

    Also, I'll be posting any related things I find here (like sketches), in case anyone ever stumbles onto this thread in the future.

    http://forums.tf2maps.net/showthread.php?t=6113 <- Process of creation of the map cp_dam; lots of sketches, screenshots, and some reference pics showing the building process of the map.

    http://forums.tf2maps.net/showthread.php?t=16504 VERY similar thread to mine, but more focused on opinions of planning.

    http://forums.tf2maps.net/showthread.php?t=15946 Personal responses to planning and different steps of building.

    http://forums.tf2maps.net/showthread.php?t=8835 Interviews of certain key mappers in the community. It's a shame these have stopped, maybe I'll be motivated to carry the torch or contact the original owner.

    http://forums.tf2maps.net/showthread.php?t=5078 WIP of one of Rexy's maps. Includes plenty of sketches.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2012
  11. Freyja

    aa Freyja ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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    Like Asylum, I often start with one cool idea. "Wouldn't it be awesome to have a map built around a supercollider?" "I want to make a point on a bridge over a waterfall." Often, the idea doesn't actually work out. It's too open (common) or just can't be done.

    If I get one I like, and can work, I sketck around it. I personally plan using a graphics tablet in photoshop. I set a small brush size in a single colour and sketch. Unlike on paper, I can use different colour for the track, for red spawn, or control points. I can also erase something if I don't like it very easily.

    Here's my first sketch of Escarpment:

    [​IMG]

    Once I have something to work with, I block out, get something done quickly and voila, playable version for testing.
     
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